The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the asset freeze of El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence and Torture (“El Nadeem Center”) ,based in Cairo.
According to the information received, on November 10, 2016, El Nadeem Center was informed that their assets had been frozen, following a directive of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE). Several other NGOs have been allegedly subjected to the same administrative measure. The reason to justify the asset freeze is the non-compliance of El Nadeem Center with Law 84/2002 (the NGO law). El Nadeem Center does not have yet the possibility to take legal action as they are still waiting for an official notification from the CBE.
The Observatory would like to recall that El Nadeem Center was not part of case 173/2011 (the “foreign funding case” against civil society), within which framework on September 17, 2016, several human rights defenders and NGOs were subjected to an asset freeze .
It has also to be recalled that, over the past months El-Nadeem Center has been subjected to closure threats and this new development constitute a further attempt to undermine its legitimate human rights work (see background information).
Moreover, the Observatory recalls that the decision to freeze El Nadeem Center’s assets comes at a time of rising government pressure on independent human rights groups in Egypt, in the context of a dramatic deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, marked namely by a massive crackdown on civil society and a notable increase in cases of torture, deaths in detention and enforced disappearances.
The Observatory urges the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to all acts of harassment against El Nadeem Center and against all human rights organisations in the country, and to comply with its constitutional obligations (in particular Article 78 and Article 93 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution which respectively recognise the right to freedom of association and Egypt’s compliance with international human rights conventions ratified by Egypt) as well as its international legal obligations (in particular Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – ICCPR).
On February 17, 2016 about 4 p.m. two police officers from the Azbakeyya District authority and one city employee ordered the employees of El Nadeem Center to leave the center’s premises. The three men delivered an “administrative closure order” signed by the Director of the Health Ministry’s Free Treatment Directorate and addressed to the head of the Azbakeyya district authority, referring to a violation of Law 453/1954 . The document ordered the closure of the center based on a decision signed on February 8, 2016, “for breaching license conditions” (providing no further information) stamped by the Cairo district on February 15. The implementation of the order was postponed until February 22, 2016.
At the beginning of February, the center was visited by an employee of the Ministry of Health, who came to inspect the center based on an order given by phone from the Minister of Health himself. The minister employee did not have any official papers nor an inspection warrant. The employee of the Ministry ordered a copy of the center’s license. No breaches of regulations were noted.
On February 21, 2016, Ms. Aida Seif al-Dawla, Director of El Nadeem Center and Dr. Suzan Fayad, Founder of El Nadeem Center accompanied by their lawyer Ms. Maha Yucef and the head of the Cairo’s doctor’s syndicate Dr. Sanaa Fuad, held meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Health to discuss about the “administrative closure order” issued against El Nadeem Center on February 17, 2016, for allegedly “breaching licence conditions”, without providing further information. On February 20, 2016, El Nadeem Center’s lawyer filed an urgent motion to the Administrative Court of First Instance to suspend the implementation of the closure order. Meanwhile, the implementation of the order was postponed until February 22 upon El Nadeem Center’s request pending meetings at the MoH.
During the meetings, El Nadeem Center’s representatives were informed that the MoH had ordered the closure of El Nadeem Center for violating its license, referring to the conduct of activities which did not fall within the mandate for which El Nadeem Center had been licensed. Such activities include the publication of torture reports, which according to the Ministry is not linked with rehabilitation and is not a medical activity, and especially, the publication in January 2016 of a review of “2015 in numbers” in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-youm, summarizing cases of deaths, torture and medical neglect in detention in 2015 as well as cases of extra judicial killings reported in the media. However, during the meetings, no professional or medical breaches were identified with regards to El Nadeem Center’s activities.
El Nadeem Center’s representatives requested a moratorium and the suspension of the closure order pending an agreement on ways to disengage their medical activities from their human rights advocacy activities. The request was rejected.
On February 20, 2016, El Nadeem Center challenged the closure order before the Administrative Court. The complaint included an urgent request to delay implementation of the closure order until the Court has heard the appeal, but that urgent request was not accepted.
In the afternoon of April 5, 2016, the Egyptian Ministry of Health (MoH) sent a delegation to El Nadeem Center to implement the administrative closure order and close the Center. El Nadeem directors refused to comply and leave the premises, as the MoH representatives did not present the original document of the closure order, as required by law.
The MoH representatives decided to leave the premises but called the Interior Ministry (MoI) to request the intervention of police forces to enforce the order.
On April 6, 2016, El Nadeem Center sent another telegram to the Director in charge of non-governmental treatment institutions and licences at the MOH stating that the closing team did not have an official order with them, that the center was not inspected for any violations and that they had not been informed of any violations to correct. The memorandum requested, again, to suspend the closing order and to form a medical inspection committee to inspect the clinic for any professional breaches.
At the same time, El Nadeem Center’s staff was informed via the media that the Azbakeyya district Governorate had filed a complaint against them at the Azbakeya police station for not allowing the closing team to execute the closing order.
Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to:
i. Immediately and unconditionally lift the asset freeze against El Nadeem Center;
ii. Put an end to all forms of harassment against El Nadeem Center, as well as in general against all human rights organisations and defenders in Egypt;
iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Article 1 5(b) and 12.2;
iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Egypt.
· President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Abedine Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Fax: +202 23901998
· Prime Minister, Mr. Sherif Ismail, Magles El Shaab Street, Kasr El Aini Street, Cairo, Egypt. Fax: + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email: email@example.com
· Minister of the Interior, General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, Ministry of the Interior, El-Sheikh Rihan Street, Bab al-Louk, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Ahmed Al-Zanad, Ministry of Justice, Magles El Saeb Street, Wezaret Al Adl, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail: email@example.com, Fax: +202 2795 8103
• Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabeel Sadek, Dar al-Qadha al-Ali, Ramses Street, Cairo, Egypt, Fax: +202 2577 4716
• Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council For Human Rights, Fax: + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• H.E. Ms. Wafaa Bassim, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, 49 avenue Blanc, 1202 Genève, Switzerland, Email: email@example.com, Fax: +41 22 738 44 15
• Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, 19 avenue de l’Uruguay, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 675.58.88; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.